Bladenboro, NC – The Wayne County District Attorney’s Office has dismissed all charges against a woman who was arrested after rescuing and treating over two dozen abandoned cats and dogs during Hurricane Florence.
Tammie Hedges, the operator of the volunteer-run temporary shelter, Crazys Claws N Paws, was arrested on Sep. 21 for 12 counts of practicing medicine without a veterinary license and one count of soliciting a schedule IV controlled substance, the Goldsboro News-Argus reported.
Crazys Claws N Paws volunteer Kathie Davidson said Hedges had planned to register the space they used as a temporary emergency center, but that it was not yet registered when Florence hit.
“Since she had space… she just wanted to be able to provide a place for the animals,” Davidson told the Goldsboro News-Argus. “Each one had its own cage or playpen, its own water, its own food, and cats had their own litter box. There was a kennel set up with pads that dogs could be taken to to use the bathroom.”
The entire operation was indoors, and volunteers remained there 24-hours each day, Davidson said.
"The owners got to evacuate. They got to save themselves,” Hedges told USA Today. “But who’s going to save those animals? That’s what we did. We saved them."
“We opened our building to them so they’d have a safe dry place to go until their owners returned to get them,” she explained. “I had not gone out and gotten any animals, but a couple of independent rescuers had gotten some from flooded areas and brought them to me.”
Hedges admitted that she used a topical antibiotic ointment for some animals and gave amoxicillin to those that were ill, CBS News reported.
She was also charged for asking someone to donate a dose of Tramadol – a prescription painkiller used to help humans and animals.
Despite Hedges’ claims to the contrary, the Wayne County Animal Shelter had “made preparations prior to the arrival of the hurricane” and had “plenty of space” available for owners who needed temporary shelter for their pets, the Wayne County Government said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.
The facility was also staffed 24-hours each day.
District Attorney Matthew Delbridge dismissed the charges against Hedges on Tuesday.
“The protection of animals and their well-being has always been an important concern, especially during times of natural disaster,” Delbridge said in the county’s Facebook post. “A passion for and the love of animals is laudable but does not excuse unnecessarily putting their health at risk when other, safer resources are available.”
According to Delbridge, Hedges’ building “failed to meet suitable standards for license as an animal shelter,” and she had “previously been censured for the unauthorized practice of veterinary medicine.”
He also said that Hedges had “[taken] advantage of a dire situation to solicit money and opioid narcotics from our generous and well-intentioned citizens.”
But since the animals had been removed from Hedges’ care and were no longer at risk, Delbridge determined it was best to dismiss the charges against her, he said.
“It is my desire that having ensured the safety of the animals in question, a dismissal of these criminal charges will minimize further distraction from my core mission of protecting the public from violent crime and allow the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Board to take whatever action they may deem appropriate,” Delbridge concluded.
A fundraising campaign established to assist Hedges in the wake of her arrest had raised over $40,000 as of Thursday afternoon.
The campaign is no longer taking donations.